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33 Days

33 Days

Or: I’m going to kill myself getting this done in time.

I do this to myself every year.

March is a month I should spend celebrating my birthday. (I turn thirty-four at the end of the month.) I should be recovering from the onslaught of allergies that happens every year in late February. I could be preparing for a summer vacation of some sort. But none of those things happen.

Instead, I dump all of my energy into completing whatever book project in which I find myself embroiled, in order to submit it to an annual literary contest. This contest – and the month of March – has made me Ahab. And winning it is my White Whale.

Many of you have never written a book. So it’s kind of a hard process to describe. Instead of trying to find a new way, I’ll let the guys who made a real go at it share their thoughts:

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwardsRobert Heinlein.

A person who publishes a book appears willfully in public eye with his pants down. – Edna St. Vincent Milay

And perhaps my favorite quote, from arguably my least favorite writer –

To be a writer, one must be able to spend long periods of time alone in a room with a stack of blank paper.Stephen King

The long and short of it? Writing is not easy. We do not become writers because we want to sit in a chair and “do nothing” all day. We write because, as Sol Stein puts it, “A writer is someone who cannot not write.”

Consider this, from a friend of mine, Jason Byron Nelson. He’s a painter, a graphic artist — in the truest sense of the title — and an auteur of mixed media presentations. Jason suggests on his Web site, “It is the creative who are closest to God. For only they share the burden of creation.”

Alone. In  a room. With a blank page…and the burden of filling it with words. Not just words, though. Any trained monkey could produce enough words to fill a page. No, these words must invade their reader’s mind, dig into the darkest corners and, from half-remembered snippets of a family trip to the lake long forgotten, build a world inside their mind, a world so real, so complete and so compelling that the reader cannot not return to that world again and again.

So, for the month of March — 33 days, in fact — I’ll be doing just that. And I’ll pop in from time to time to entertain you.

Catch you on the flip-flop.